Melania Trump is threatening to sue a Croatian school that used a picture of her to advertise its English classes.
At first glance, the billboards seem flattering enough — the feature an image of Melania standing at a podium in front a wavering American flag and the slogan “just imagine how far you can go with a little bit of English,” but the first lady reportedly thought the advertisement was meant to be a dig at her heavily-accented English. The billboards were removed Tuesday from the Croatian capital of Zagreb.
Melania is threatening to sue over this English class billboard pic.twitter.com/RbCn0BTley— Barry Corindia (@barry_corindia) September 20, 2017
The American Institute insists the signs were not meant to mock the first lady’s speech, but rather to inspire — and obviously to drum up some business.
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“The most recognized emigrant to the U.S. from this region happens to be the first lady of the United States,” Ivis Buric, a spokeswoman for the school, told Newsweek. “And we thought it would draw a lot of interest to combine those two elements.”
And that it did. Boric called the campaign “very successful,” noting photos of the five billboards began generating publicity within hours of their installation last week and even started trending on sites like Reddit. But it’s not the first time the American Institute has used images of members of the Trump administration. The school often posts a “word of the day” alongside photos of Trump administration officials to illustrate the word’s meaning, and not usually in flattering ways.
For example, on Aug. 25 the school posted a photo of U.S. President Donald Trump alongside their word of the day “uncouth,” which means lacking good manners, refinement, or grace.
On Aug. 23 the word of the day was “profligate,” an adjective meaning recklessly extravagant or wasteful in the use of resources, which was posted beside an image of Louise Linton, wife of treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, who found herself in some hot water last month after posting a picture of herself on Instagram decked head to toe in designer gear as she exited a government plane.
On Aug. 22 came another photo of the president, this time as he stared into the sun during the total eclipse in August, beside the word "brinkmanship," which means the art or practice of pursuing a dangerous policy to the limits of safety before stopping, especially in politics.
Boric told Newsweek she was surprised when Melania threated to sue, but the first lady has been known to be protective of her image.
In April, The Daily Mail agreed to pay Melania millions in damages and was forced to issue an apology after it reported she “provided services beyond simply modeling,” insinuating she had worked as an escort during her modeling days.
Melania even retained a Slovenian law firm to protect her image, which has appeared on an array of products in her native country, including on cakes, underwear and tourism materials.
For now, it seems like the American Institute is safe from legal action.
"I'm satisfied with the fact that the school admitted that they violated the law and that they are ready to remove the billboards and (Facebook) ads," lawyer Natasa Pirc-Musar told The Associated Press. "We are still analyzing possible further legal steps."